In Play with Tom Markowski

New Haven gets 27 points from Dmonta Harris, remains unbeaten with victory over Utica Ford

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

New Haven gets 27 points from Dmonta Harris, remains unbeaten with victory over Utica Ford

Sterling Heights – It all seems so simple sometimes. Play hard-nosed, man-to-man defense and force a team out of their comfort zone, and get the victory.

And for New Haven it has been that easy, most of this season. New Haven entered the game 16-0 and ranked No. 4 in Class B. For the most part the Rockets haven’t been tested. Last Friday they went to Warren Woods Tower, went to overtime tied at 67-67 and won 84-71. Most often that has not been the case. Eleven times this season New Haven has won by 17 or more points. 

It wasn’t easy on Thursday. New Haven was the team taken out of its comfort zone and, in many ways, was fortunate to be tied with Utica Ford at halftime, 26-26.

New Haven’s defense ultimately wore down Ford and the Rockets won, 73-64, in a Macomb Area Conference crossover at Ford.

There were signs late in the first half that New Haven would bust of its doldrums and take care of business as most would expect. Dmonta Harris, held scoreless in the first quarter, followed a steal with a dunk giving New Haven a 20-18 lead with 2:15 left in the half. Harris made back-to-back 3-pointers and New Haven led 26-21 with 54 seconds left.

Ford closed out the half on a basket by Donnie Schuster and Alex Ott’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“I was off my game in the first quarter,” Harris said. “It was the (lack of) intensity. We weren’t used to the pressure. I have to step up and be the leader. I’m a senior.

“In the end, for us to be a championship team, we have to be a great defensive team, not a good defensive team. We tend to trap out of our man-to-man. We have to react.”

New Haven has plenty of length. Harris is the key. A transfer from Waterford Mott, Harris listed at 6-4 and he plays the shooting guard. Others in the starting lineup include 6-6 Austin Sherrell, 6-6 Josh Harris (no relation) and 6-9 Jerry Ben. Innocent Nwoko is 6-11 and he’s the sixth man.

All are athletic and all have long arms, and when they play aggressively, not passively, they make it difficult for teams to score.

Ford had just six points on two 3-pointers in the first 4:45 of the third quarter and managed just two points in the first four minutes of the fourth.

“We had a poor start,” New Haven coach Tedaro France II said. “We didn’t play well but some guys made plays at the right time. I tell my kids. Let’s learn from a win, not a loss. We’re still kind of young, raw with our skill sets. And they shot the ball well. I take my hat off to Ford.

Some teams might not take this game as serious as others. It’s a MAC crossover, has no bearing on the division races and these aren’t rivals.

But Ford (7-9) and coach Jeff Olson came prepared. The half-court trap the Falcons used gave New Haven problems. The Vikings committed 14 turnovers in the first half look confused at times.

Ford made nine 3-pointers and Sammy Rizzo had 18 points including four 3-pointers.

New Haven played much better in the second half. Its passes were more direct and made with a purpose. The Rockets had just one turnover in the first 5:30.

Harris led New Haven with 27 points. Sherrell had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Nwoko had 10 points and six rebounds.

But with New Haven its success begins and ends with its defense.

“We play hard but sometimes we don’t play smart,” France said. “We can play fast but we need to play with control.

“We’re giving up an average of 44 points a game. Tonight we gave up 60 (sic). That’s not us. That’s uncharacteristic.”

It’s a learning process.